How brands should be marketing during this pandemic
Shopper in mask.jpg

Good shopper marketing helps a brand win at the point of purchase.  Whilst much shopper behaviour is semi-automatic, the right messages told in the right way in the right places can significantly influence what gets bought.  But in the current virus situation, several shopper marketing tools (some promotions, barker cards, “wobblers” and other temporary material) are not available.  This is unlikely to change soon.   So, in this context, when so much is out of your control, how can you still maximise the chances of shoppers seeing and choosing your brand?  The answer is to prime shoppers effectively and then focus on two things you can control – your pack and your shelf ready packaging (SRP).


Priming in this context means exposing shoppers to your brand before they get to the point of purchase.  It is known that people are more likely to recognise and see what they have recently seen – in other words, their attention is drawn to what is more recently familiar.  This is why there is lots of FMCG advertising near supermarkets, and even more in supermarket car parks and at the store entrance.  Some locations have become even more important in the current situation – notably any advertising space that is visible from the places where shoppers are queuing to enter the store.  A captive audience with nothing to do, except look at their phone, or perhaps read the ads around them.


So, the shopper is primed.  What about your pack and SRP?  The priority is to make sure it is instantly recognisable.  This requires you to know what your brand’s visual assets are, and make sure they are never compromised.  Sounds obvious?  There are many examples of brands becoming too clever for their shoppers, adopting new designs that are not instantly recognised.  Tropicana’s 2009 US re-brand is one example that has reached mythic status.  Such designs often look great when studied by industry professionals in meeting rooms at head office, but don’t work with shoppers when on shelf in store.


The second priority with pack and SRP is to be easy to process.  Know your messaging hierarchy - what you want the shopper to understand, in what order.  Again, sounds obvious.  But a common mistake, especially amongst smaller brands, is to overload shoppers with information.  In reality, less is more, because quite quickly busy shoppers become overloaded.  One useful rule of thumb is “front of pack for shopper, back of pack for consumer”.  If you can’t resist including loads of messages on your pack, at least make sure most of them are on the back, to keep the front easy to process in store.


Finally, pack and SRP need to make your brand the obvious choice.  This is about highlighting one simple Reason To Buy.  It can be as simple as a magic ingredient (“with Virgin Olive Oil”), a key usage (“perfect for packed lunch”) or a social proof message (“UK’s #1 brand”).  Know and then drive your single best reason to buy.  Again, less is more. 


Priming, Pack and SRP are always critically important.  In one way, the current reduction in shopper marketing can be a good thing, if it means that you revisit these fundamentals.  The benefits of getting priming, pack and SRP right, are well worth the effort.

Jeremy Garlick is a Partner of Insight Traction, consulting with FMCG and Retail companies.  He was formerly Head of Insight at Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Premier Foods.